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Poland protests mark one year since abortion ban

October 23, 2021

Rights groups have asked the European Commission to clamp down on Poland for defying "EU values." Thousands of Polish women have gone abroad to get abortions since the ban came into effect.

Protesters gather near the Polish capital's iconic skyscraper, the Palace of Culture, at a protest demanding abortion rights, in Warsaw, Poland
Protesters march through Warsaw on the first anniversary of an archaic abortion banImage: Czarek Sokolowski/AP Photo/picture alliance

Protests across Poland on Friday marked a year since the near-total abortion ban imposed by the country's constitutional court.

Judges ruled in October 2020 abortions should be illegal except in cases of rape, incest or where the mother's life was at risk.

Friday's protests come at a time when Poland is embroiled in a high-level feud over the primacy of EU law.

Human rights

As hundreds of protesters gathered in Warsaw and other cities, a women's rights group called Stajik Kobiet said on Facebook: "We defend our right to abortion, our fundamental right to decide for ourselves and our future."

A coalition of 14 rights groups including Amnesty International and Human Rights Watch earlier in the week said that "all pregnant people have faced extreme barriers to accessing legal abortions." They have even pleaded with the European Commission to deny the country funds for pushing back against "EU values."

How was abortion made illegal?

A year ago, Poland's Constitutional Court sided with the pro-Catholic populist PiS party to stop terminations over foetal defects, including Down's Syndrome.

Protesters carry a sign at a protest demanding abortion rights in Warsaw, Poland
Thousands of desperate Polish women have been forced to get abortions outside of the country over the last 12 monthsImage: Czarek Sokolowski/AP Photo/picture alliance

The NGO Abortions Without Borders said it has helped 34,000 Polish women get abortions abroad since the ban came into effect.

jc/jsi (AFP, AP)